| Leander Paes the ‘underdog’ no more
Calcutta: In the end, the self-proclaimed ‘underdogs’ prevailed over the ‘form-team’ on Court 2 at the Roland Garros Tuesday.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi dominated the first half of the match, and were within two points of wrapping it up in straight sets. Leander Paes and David Rikl fought back with all their experience to turn the match on its head and win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, according to information received here.
Paes and Rikl, who enjoyed a successful hardcourt season, will next meet Bryan twins Bob and Mike. The third-seeded Americans swept aside Italian Massimo Bertolini and Argentine Sebastian Prieto 6-1, 6-4.
The other semi-final will pit Paul Haarhuis-Yevgeny Kafelnikov against Wayne Arthurs-Paul Hanley.
It was fifth seeds Paes and the left-handed Rikl who drew ‘first blood’ to go 2-0 up and their big-serving opponents blasted their way through six.
The Indo-Belarussian pair, winners of last year’s US Open and two titles on clay this season, got a crucial break in the second set and Mirnyi was serving for the match in the tenth game. The favourites developed cold feet at 5-4, 30-15, giving Paes and Rikl the lifeline.
The fifth seeds broke back to make it 5-5, held and captured Bhupathi’s serve, too, to push to deciding set. The decisive break in Set III came in the sixth game, at Mirnyi’s expense, giving Paes-Rikl a 4-2 lead. They held on to that advantage.
This was Paes’ eighth win in nine career meetings with Bhupathi. .
PTI adds: Later speaking to a television channel over phone, Paes said: “This is the venue… where Mahesh and I had created history. So it was very hard to come into the match and face him on the other side of the net.
“I am glad that I came out with a win and that was the sweet part about it, but it was no fun being on the other side of the net,” Paes said.
“I felt bad for him because at one time he was serving for the match and the next time he was staring down the barrel when I was serving for the match,” said Paes. “Like I said, it was bitter sweet emotion.
“It was very unfortunate that one of us had to lose and that was the original reason many years ago why I asked him to partner me so that India could win.
“Now we have got two Indians on the opposite side of the net which is very unfortunate,” he said.